“What Are Our Priorities – Part 2?”

As a follow-up to what I posted Monday, “What Are Our Priorities?”, I want to add the follow items:

  1. It was reported in The New York Times and other papers this morning that 6 Long Island high school students paid a 7th student to take the SAT exams – http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/28/nyregion/7-long-island-students-charged-in-sat-fraud-scheme.html

    I know why the six students did it; pressure from their parents and their peers. I just want to know how the one student who took the test was able to pull it off. The physical part was easy – he took the six exams at six different sites using six sets of falsified identities. But unless he got the same exam all six times, each of the students for whom he took the exam would have gotten different scores (and it was the scores and how they varied from each student’s own academic performance that triggered the inquiry).
    The other thing is that the more times you take an exam, the more you are likely to regress to the mean. In other words, multiple attempts do not result in better scores.
    When I was a junior in high school, we were told (by persons unknown) to take the PSAT as a practice exam and then take the SAT and ACT exams during the spring of our junior year. Depending on which exam we needed, we were to take that particular exam again at the beginning of our senior year.
    I scored something between 90 and 99% on the natural sciences, social sciences, and math portions of the ACT exam. I got the required minimum on the English portion but I had an excuse; I fell asleep during that portion of the exam. The ACT was my backup exam (meaning I didn’t need it for the colleges I wanted to attend but I needed for the one that I might have to go to) so I didn’t repeat that exam. I got what I thought were really horrible scores on the SAT that I took in the spring so I repeated it in the fall and got a 760 on math and something like 1340 combined (there are times when I wish my doubles and single scores at the USBC Open were that good).
    I don’t know if that procedure would work today. But repeating the exam repeatedly and paying money to have someone teach you how to take the test are not the best options.
    Here is my advice on how to take the SAT and ACT exams (it works for other similar exams as well with the possible exception of the GRE).

    1. Read the question but don’t read the answers.
    2. Answer the question.
    3. If you understood the question correctly, then you have the answer or one close to it.

    There are too many people who will read the question and then try to deduce the answer from the choices. Do the work first; that way you can eliminate the obvious. There is a correct answer and there is an almost correct answer and then there are really bad answers. The only way to know is to do the work.

    Also, get a good night’s sleep before and don’t argue with anyone. Come to the exam in a good frame of mind and things will go smoothly.

  2. It was reported in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this morning that the principal of a school in downtown St. Louis instructed the secretaries to alter the attendance records, so as to meet NCLB standards.

    This isn’t the first time this has happened (look at Atlanta and the mess that’s going on down there or what happened in Houston a few years back).
    As long as we make schools accountable by some weirdly defined bottom line (test scores, attendance, and such) then we are going to have instances where the teachers and the administrators do things like erase wrong answers on test scores or falsely report the scores and attendance.
    The only true measure of a school success is in what its students do with their lives. Consider this – Steven Weinberg and Sheldon Glashow both graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1950. Their independent research in physics would earn them, along with Abdus Salam, the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979. Personally, I would hate to be a part of a culture where not winning the Nobel Prize is tantamount to failure but it speaks to that high school that it turned out not one, but two winners.
    While it would be unrealistic to expect the production of Nobel Prize winners as a measure of success, it would be realistic to look and see what impact the graduates of any particular high school had on their community and the world.
    But that takes time and it is the one thing that we don’t put into the mix when we try to make our schools accountable.
    We have to decide right now what our priorities are? We can go for the quick fix and things look nice right now but how much good does it do when the numbers turn out to be false and the students haven’t learned anything. Oh yes, they have papers that say they know this and that but what can they do?
    Our priorities are really screwed up right now and pretty soon we are going to see the outcome of this quick fix mentality.
    Let’s get back on track before it is too late and decide what our priorities should be.


2 thoughts on ““What Are Our Priorities – Part 2?”

  1. The pressure faced by students today is foreign to my memories of my senior year in high school. I was fortunate–I attended a high school where moving on the college was the norm (85% of my class) but there was no stress about whether we would be accepted or not. If you had done your work previously at an acceptable level, your choice of schools would be open to you. Today it seems that is not enough …

    I took the ACT (because that is what St. Louis University wanted) and the only memorable part of the exam for me was that afterward I got into my car and found out I had a dead battery. It was my dad’s car, a rainy December Saturday, and I called my dad who was working in his office just a few blocks away. His memorable words to me when he got there were, “I had been having trouble starting the car too.” Been nice if he had told me!

    But there was no stress over the test. It was required and it was expected you would do your best. That was all. Nothing like today when kids are placed in almost impossible situations by themselves, their parents, and Lord knows who else.

    Cheating to get ahead never accomplishes the goals we hope for because the whole process of maturing through dealing with life’s issues is short-circuited. A cheater never learns what it means to grow as a person and to become the person God wants us to be.

    Maybe I’m too simplistic, but current demands upon children are not good today. Sure glad I’m way beyond that.

    • Bob,
      Thanks for the comment. I am reminded of the time that I ran out of gas and was worried about what my father would say when I called for help. What he did say was that he had forgotten to put gas in the car as he normally did.

      More to the point, the one thing that I didn’t deal with in this or the previous post was that aspect that you also pointed out, the demands placed on everyone in today’s society and what we are to do about it. It may come with this weekend’s thoughts on the lectionary.

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